INDIANAPOLIS — The pandemic brought Indy’s tourism juggernaut to a standstill. Now two years later, the industry is beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels.

“Leisure travel continues to be off the charts in the entire country,” says Patrick Tamm, President and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association (InRLA).

Visit Indy says their projections are showing tourism levels hitting 90% to 95% compared to 2019. They believe hotel occupancy levels are well above that of other cities. Despite the success, InRLA says hotels do struggle between Monday and Thursday because of the ever changing work routine landscape. The shift is helping suburban businesses see greater success.

“A lot of people are staying closer to home, a hybrid schedule, going out to dinner at 5 pm on a Monday is part of the deal now,” adds Tamm.

Downtown remains supported heavily by conventions and sporting events, especially the annual ones they can count on. The Indiana Black Expo is expected to fill downtown in the coming weeks.

“Gen Con is bouncing back [in August]. They have convened here since 2003. We are anticipating their attendance would be 90% to 95%of what it would normally be pre-pandemic,” says Visit Indy Senior Vice President Chris Gahl, adding that when it comes to overall hotel occupancy, “We are in the top quartile nationwide, punching well above our weight class.”

Tamm says youth sporting events at Grand Park in Westfield have been a major catalyst for keeping that occupancy stronger than expected.

“They are throwing off the room nights of maybe the equivalent of major convention centers through out America,” says Tamm.

InRLA says normal business travel rates weren’t expected to return to normal until 2024. They now say projections are aiming for late 2023.